Close Encounters
After the parking ticket, the appeal

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

13 SEPTEMBER 00 | Only one person had signed up to appeal a campus parking ticket, so citation services officer 101 (real name withheld) was looking forward to a light session.

"We work hand in hand with parking enforcement," he explained in the meantime. "The fact is, there are more vehicles up here than there are parking spaces. People can't pick and choose which of the parking regulations they're going to follow. It would be utter chaos."

Campus parking enforcement officers issue some 4,000 tickets a month, he said. About 10 percent of them appeal, some of them in person.

"If we can educate them with the first ticket, they're more apt to park legally the next time. They usually say 'thank you and here's $28.' To me, I find that incredible. The majority of time, they don't go away angry."

A few, of course, do: the fellow who called Channel 4's "4 on Your Side," hoping it would roast Berkeley's parking enforcement system on prime-time TV; the guy who shot BB's through the front window.

It's because of those few bad apples, 101 noted, that parking citation officers go by numbers, not their names.

The most argumentative clients are the "wannabe lawyers," he said. "They want to challenge our right to write a ticket. They think because we're 'just a university,' our citations won't stick. In fact, if you fail to pay, or to successfully appeal the citation, we notify the DMV, and they will place a block on your registration."

It was 10 a.m. A small army of appealers had materialized in the lobby of 2427 Dwight; 101 swung into action.

"I'm going to take a quick look at this, and then we can talk about it," he told a rail-thin undergrad in baggy black pants. The student waited in a state of semi-agitation while 101 entered the citation number on his PowerPark software, in order to reconstruct the events leading up to this meeting.

It turned out the student had parked in a campus lot without displaying either a parking pass or permit from the lot's dispenser. No. 101 calmly approached the counter to explain what was possible: he couldn't dismiss the ticket.

"I'm an architecture student," the young man told him. "I was only there five minutes. I came down to the car with all these models. The officer was there. I pleaded with him. I know for street parking, you can park free in the evening," he went on. "It was like Saturday, too, you know."

No. 101 applied the reins: "Would you like to pay the fine or further contest the $28 with a hearing examiner?...Check or cash?

"Some clients get very creative with their excuses," 101 said quietly as the client left. "If they start to go off track, I bring them back: 'I can't base this appeal on the fact that your child was in the back seat throwing up.' Each case gets judged on its own merits."

Next came a woman in a natty black blazer, carrying clipboard, glasses case and parking citation. Her office was downsizing. She'd been loading files into her car.

No. 101 studied her record, then said: "There's two things going on here: the coupon was expired, and that's what the ticket was issued for. Because you didn't realize that, I can offer to let you replace the coupon with the campus gate fee this one time.

"But the other thing is," he went on grimly, "I see this is a visitor's permit; they're not for staff members. If enforcement were to suspect permit misuse, it could mean a $200 ticket."

In the future, he told his clearly relieved client, she should contact Parking and Transportation and ask for special permission to park while the move is in progress.

A quick study, she started to strategize: "Maybe what I can do is organize the move: on this day, at this time, we'll all be doing this."

Then she took out her wallet. "I'm glad to talk to you. Go Bears!" she said, willingly forking over her payment. "This is very valuable information. Do you have a card?"

"Close Encounters" is a new, occasional Berkeleyan column documenting unofficial moments in campus life. If you have an idea for a column, contact Berkeleyan writer Cathy Cockrell at or 643-9259.



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